The association representing agricultural science teachers in secondary schools in Ireland has said in a statement today (Wednesday, August 26) that it has been in contact with the State Examinations Commission (SEC) over assessment arrangements.

In a previous statement on the matter, the Irish Agricultural Science Teachers’ Association [IASTA] executive said it feels that the current plans for examining the new agricultural science course “cannot be carried out due to Covid-19”.

In an update, the IASTA said that it has been in contact with the State Examinations Commission (SEC).

The statement reads:

“[The] IASTA has passed on the worries and concerns that have been expressed by all agricultural science teachers, which have arisen following the publication of the assessment arrangement for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate examinations 2021, on Friday evening last [August 21].

“A number of key issues were discussed. [The] IASTA will continue to represent agricultural science teachers and look for the best possible outcomes for our agricultural science students.”

IIS ‘major stumbling block’

Previously, the IASTA outlined a number of concerns, with the individual investigative study (IIS) described as the “major stumbling block”.

The IASTA said it feels that the project “cannot be completed” the way things stand.

“Firstly, the IIS brief was late in being released, putting both teachers and students on the back foot,” the statement reads.

“The brief was promised in September 2019 and did not arrive until late December 2019.

“The IIS is to be completed over a two-year period; the training was also slow to come; Covid-19 then brought training to a halt.

Covid-19 has resulted in many students not being able to collect data for their IIS due to the lockdown and lack of access to farms, laboratories and school resources.

“Other subjects have received many changes to their curriculum. We also feel that the mandatory experiments should be removed due to challenges of using a laboratory in this time.”

The IASTA also said that both teachers and students have lost “on average, 15% of the teaching year due to Covid-19”.

“Therefore, we are calling for a wide variety of questions in the Leaving Certificate [2021] to allow for the strong possibility that some topics may not be covered due to loss of class time.

“Teachers are also in the dark about what the exam paper will look like, as this is the first year of examination of the new course. We are calling for sample papers to be released as a matter of urgency.”